Meds Not Always Best Solution for Chronic Heartburn

Jul 16, 2010
Thomas Husted, MD

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you constantly pop pills and still suffer from irritating heartburn, there may be an underlying problem more effectively -- and safely -- addressed with surgery.

"The choice to have surgery often comes down to a matter of convenience or ,” explains Thomas Husted, MD, a general surgeon with UC Health and clinical instructor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

According to Husted, many otherwise healthy young patients have an aversion to taking pills long-term to avoid reflux, so surgery to correct the underlying anatomical problem can be a more appealing solution. Other patients simply don’t experience relief from acid reflux symptoms with medication, so surgical correction is the only way to stop the problem.

"This is especially important for people who have a low-grade Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition that puts certain patients at higher risk for esophagus cancer,” adds Husted. "When the problem is identified early, surgery can stop the tissue changes that lead to esophageal cancer.”

Recent studies published in the suggest the risks of taking medications for acid reflux may outweigh the benefits for people with less serious conditions. According to the research, proton pump inhibitors can have rare but serious side effects, including bacterial infections and .

Acid reflux, known medically as gastrointestinal reflux disease, occurs when there is a breakdown of the protective mechanism between the espophagus and the stomach.

"Several anatomic functions have to work together where the stomach and esophagus meet to avoid reflux. If a part of that protective system is flawed, the patient ends up with reflux and the patient often experiences chest pain and sour tastes in the mouth,” explains Husted. "Proton pump inhibitors reduce the symptoms, but they do not stop the reflux or potential changes in the esophageal lining that can lead to cancer.”

Patients who had anti-reflux surgery—known medically as Nissen fundoplication—report an 87 to 95 percent improvement in symptoms one year post-surgery without medication, according to data from the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons.

To perform the laparoscopic anti-reflux operation, the surgeon makes several small incisions—half an inch or less—in the abdomen to insert thin surgical tools used during the procedure. Using video guidance from inside the abdomen, the surgeon then reinforces the valve between the esophagus and the stomach by wrapping the upper portion of the stomach around the lowest portion of the esophagus. Patients typically require a one-night hospital stay, but are able to return to regular activities within two weeks.

Explore further: Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

No link between acid reflux and survival

Jan 04, 2008

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), often known as acid reflux, is a common problem that has been associated with cancers, asthma, recurrent aspiration and pulmonary fibrosis. A new study published in The American Journal ...

Study compares 2 nonsurgical treatments for reflux disease

Jan 19, 2009

Two non-surgical, non-pharmacological treatments for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) both appear effective in reducing medication use and improving voice and swallowing symptoms, according to a report in the January ...

Recommended for you

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears

45 minutes ago

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate vote that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

20 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

Bacteria in caramel apples kills at least four in US

21 hours ago

A listeria outbreak believed to originate from commercially packaged caramel apples has killed at least four people in the United States and sickened 28 people since November, officials said Friday.

Steroid-based treatment may answer needs of pediatric EoE patients

21 hours ago

A new formulation of oral budesonide suspension, a steroid-based treatment, is safe and effective in treating pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal ...

Discovery of genes that predispose a severe form of COPD

Dec 19, 2014

A study by Ramcés Falfán-Valencia, researcher at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER), found that the mestizo Mexican population has a number of variations in certain genes that predispose ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jerryd
not rated yet Jul 18, 2010

I just stopped eating so much which solved it over a couple months
jd111358
not rated yet Jul 20, 2010
the article says a percentage of relief from the symptoms of low grade Barretts...........but does it actually stop Barretts or just calm the symptoms? Would it be of any benefit to someone with more than low grade? Im a long time (15+ years)sufferer of Gerd and now diagnosed with Barretts, no cancer yet. Just scoped recently. Many on one side of the family suffer Gerd so there is a genetic connection though everybody says its not genetic.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.